Kingsway fire brings down broadband services in London

Electrical fire underneath London thoroughfare Kingsway takes down broadband services to businesses around Covent Garden and Holborn

A suspected electrical fire which broke out in cable ducts beneath London’s Kingsway is understood to be behind a broadband service outage that has affected many businesses in the city on the afternoon of Wednesday 1 April and into Thursday 2 April.

Kingsway, which connects Holborn with the Strand, passes a number of key buildings and institutions, including parts of the London School of Economics and Aviation House, the headquarters of the Government Digital Service (GDS).

The fire, which broke out in the early afternoon of 1 April, forced the evacuation of more than 2,000 people and the closure of Holborn underground station. It was declared a major incident by the authorities.

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) reported it was unable to tackle the blaze as quickly as it would have liked because it was forced to wait for utility companies to switch off their supplies so that fire-fighters could safely tackle the blaze.

At the same time, DownDetector, an online service that crowdsources status updates for a number of services, reported a spike in reports about BT broadband services in the area.

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BT subsequently reported that it was having problems with its Infinity fibre broadband service in the Covent Garden area, which meant that some customers were having trouble getting online. BT estimated the problems would be resolved by midday on 2 April.

TalkTalk’s service status website similarly reported that “some customers connected to [the] Covent Garden exchange are experiencing loss of their broadband and TV services.”

Shropshire-based internet service provider Aquiss Broadband took to Twitter to confirm that a number of its customers connected to both the Holborn and Covent Garden exchanges were suffering connectivity issues due to the loss of power.

At the time of writing, Kingsway and a number of local streets remained closed. LFB assistant commissioner Peter Cowup told the BBC that the fire was still burning into the morning of 2 April due to the complex nature of the tunnel layout making the blaze hard to tackle. “It will be some time until the fire is fully extinguished,” he said.

UK Power Networks confirmed that more than a thousand customers remained without power, and GDS staff are also understood to be enjoying an extra day off.

Read more on Telecoms networks and broadband communications

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This reinforces the need to look at Broadband resilience. I am intrigued to note the Governement Data Service (I assume it is that GDS) has a single point of failure for many of its staff.

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